Summer at last. Aaaah. No doubt you are redesigning some units, meeting up with teacher friends at a conference or a coffee shop to share ideas, and reading a new novel or two for your choice reading library. But hopefully you are also getting some time to recharge your batteries.
Still, for some, all the free time leaves an itch for new challenges. Is this the summer Teachers Pay Teachers is calling your name? If so, read on. If not, may I recommend you head over to one of my favorite posts, “The Best Youtube Channels for English Teachers,” and read that instead?
My favorite part of teaching has always been designing curriculum. I achieve that amazing state they now call “flow” when I’m deep into my mock trial prep, one-pager template design, or reading festival publicity. I love creating activities, projects, journal prompts, movies, web quests and special class events. Seriously. I love it. I bet you’re the same way.
I didn’t even know about the concept of teacherpreneurship until I saw an article in the New York Times one night six years ago in a sleep haze, awake with my infant son, yet again.
Somehow the concept penetrated my fogged brain, that I could actually spend all of my work time helping other teachers try new creative strategies in their classrooms. I could share my favorite ideas and resources, and spend more of my time creating new ones. So I clicked through to TPT, made up a store name, and became a midnight teacherpreneur in about ten minutes.
Perhaps you too are wishing you could share what you’ve learned and what you love with more teachers. Perhaps you are wondering how to begin.
Well, I’ve got some help for you. I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing for the first few years. I made a lot of great curriculum, but no one knew it.
Then I started taking courses and learning how to create an online business, not just a TPT store. There’s a lot to it, but all it takes is a first step to get started. If you are truly interested in being a teacherpreneur, it’s better to go into it thinking big picture and taking small steps than just trying to post a lot of curriculum to TPT. Because you’ll spend a lot of time doing that and then discover (like me) that you’ve started at the end and have to go back to the beginning.
That’s why in this post, I’m going to share the big steps that will help you get started in creating a teacherpreneur business that can really go places in the long run. Notice that step number six is the one where you actually open a TPT store, not step number one!!! (Oops. Guess I got that wrong.)
#1 Figure out Who you Want to Reach
The first step in creating a business is to think about who you want to help. Are you going to share curriculum that can help new A.P. Lit teachers survive their first year? Are you going to focus on creating video resources that will help middle school ELA teachers flip their writing instruction? Do you want to create grading rubrics that will keep high school English teachers from stressing so much over marking papers?
Before you do anything else, think seriously about what business folks call “your ideal customer” and what they need help with. If you start creating things without figuring out who your ideal customer is and what they need, it will be much harder to find success. Once you know who you want to reach, do your best to actually chat with some teachers in that demographic about what their struggles are. This could be in person, over the phone, in a social media group, etc.
#2 Listen to some Podcasts
If you studied English in college, and graduate school, and all your free time (like me), chances are you haven’t the first clue what it’s like to be an entrepreneur or to run a business. Nothing wrong with that, but you will want to learn from some of the pros. The great thing about podcasts is they can fit easily into your busy life and (whoo hoo!) they are free.
I love Jenna Kutcher’s show, “The Goal Digger Podcast,” and Amy Porterfield’s “Online Marketing Made Easy.” I’ve probably listened to hundreds of podcasts about blogging, social media, website design, and more this year. It’s a very inexpensive alternative to business school! Start getting your social media platforms and hashtags straight and find out how to start an e-mail list. You won’t regret it later on.
#3 Play to your Strengths
Think about how you can reach teachers. Different strengths can lead in different fun directions. If you are great on camera and love getting dressed up, a Youtube channel might be your perfect platform (check out Sunny Lenarduzzi’s channel for advice to get you started).
If you love photography and making new friends, Instagram might be a great initial launchpad for you to share your ideas.
Love speaking but prefer more anonymity? Maybe podcasting is right for you.
If writing and design light you up, it’s time to learn about WordPress or Wix and get ready to start designing a website and planning your first blog posts (eventually you will probably want to have a website no matter what other platforms you start with!).
You do NOT have to do it all. I haven’t touched my Twitter account in months, because I just can’t get on often enough to stay caught up, and I’m not very good at turning my ideas into pithy one-liners. No big deal, Twitter’s just not my thing. Think about what your thing is and how you can use it to share your great ideas. Don’t get caught up in good old “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out) and try to master every platform at once.
#4 Create a Brand
Before you dive into whatever platform or two or three you’ve chosen, think about what you want your brand to be like. Choosing consistent colors, fonts, symbols, sketches, types of images, etc. will help you be clear across whatever platforms you use. It also makes it WAY EASIER to grow, because you always know how to design new things. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you go to create something for your business.
Using the free online tool Canva to design your graphics for anything and everything is a LIFESAVER. I like to pull free images from Pixabay to combine with my own photography on Canva and play around with their templates and fonts. As with most everything these days, if you find Canva confusing, just search Youtube for Tutorials. Youtube tutorials are my lifeline anytime I am learning something new in my business, and they will be for you too.
#5 Learn the Nitty Gritty
Speaking of tutorials, once you’ve thought about who you want to help, what strengths you can use to help them, and what your brand is going to look like, you are ready to actually start building up your business and you may need some help with that.
This post would get pretty crazy if I shared all I’ve learned about every platform out there, but instead I’m going to suggest you do what I did and learn about each one as you go. You can see in my Pinterest collection “Build a Better Business on Teachers Pay Teachers” that I searched the heck out of each new thing I wanted to add to my business.
So, for example, if you are starting with a youtube channel, search in Pinterest, the apple Podcast directory, and Youtube for others’ advice about how to shoot and edit effective movies, how to brand and market a youtube channel, and how to effectively connect your youtube write-ups to your product or website. Then take what you’ve learned and dive in!
#6 Open a TPT Store
OK, my friend, you’ve done the work. You know what you want to do and who you want to do it for. You have put the wheels in motion on creating a platform or two that will allow your work to get noticed, so now you can start to create that TPT store. It’s pretty easy to get started. Just go to Teachers Pay Teachers and start your account.
Use Powerpoint to design your products as it is a million times easier to adjust images, borders, and placement than in Word. I will probably never again design a handout in anything but Powerpoint! As you explore your options for making your store look good, you’ll figure out how to design a banner, link out from within your product descriptions, and other helpful tidbits. Tutorials already exist for all of these steps, so check out that Pinterest page I linked above for a tour of them all, or just search as you go. Learn what you need when you need it is my motto! If you have specific questions you can’t find the answer to, pop them into the comments below. I’m open to doing a follow-up post with more of the store nitty gritty if folks are super interested in that.